The Fourth Circuit has ruled against the Alive Church of the Nazarene’s claims that Prince William County, Virginia, violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLIUPA) by denying the Church the opportunity to worship on its 17-acre property before the Church complied with relevant zoning regulations. Alive Church of the Nazarene, Inc.
Wiccan Prisoner Seeking 14 Feet of Rope, Combustible Oils, and Candles Loses First Amendment, RLUIPA, and Equal Protection Challenges
Ronald Reiske, a Wiccan prisoner incarcerated in a Connecticut prison, thought it reasonable that the correctional facility provide him with the necessary materials and equipment to practice his Wiccan religion – including 14 feet of rope, candles, oils, a three-by-two-foot pile of wood, a pendant cord, and a “summoning horn.” Should he have such things in prison? What threat might rope, candles, combustible oils, a pile of wood, and the rest of the items pose in such a facility? Reverend Anthony Bruno, Director of Religious Services for the Department of Corrections (DOC), found that they were indeed a substantial threat and denied many of the requests. Requests for less threatening items were also denied because similar items were already available for purchase in the commissary.
Displeased with the result, Reiske – whose record includes charges for fighting, gang affiliation, security tampering, flagrant disobedience, and possession of contraband – did what many other inmates do when they don’t get what they want. He sued. According to Reiske, the DOC’s denial substantially burdened his practice of his Wiccan religion in violation of the First Amendment and the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA). He also asserted an Equal Protection violation under the Fourteenth Amendment.
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